Soaking Up Ads

Everyday people come across hundred of ad’s a day, usually without even realizing they have read them.  Advertisements are embedded into our everyday lives and easily influence our views or choices. Ideology in advertisement is the belief system behind the ads, what the ad’s values and beliefs suggest and represents the way things should be. Ideology is the framework of how we construe and perceive ads.  In the Three Olives Vodka ad, there is an attractive woman lounging in a martini glass. The slogan “who’s in your martini” is the advertiser’s question to the audience, which would appear to be men, since the woman has a seductive facial expression, enticing them to drink this type of vodka. The question helps the audience understand what the ad is trying to portray to the. The ideology behind this ad is to have men believe if they drink Three Olives vodka, they will end up with a “sexy” woman.

It does not cross everyone’s mind that this ad’s intention is to target men to drink this specific vodka, and will be rewarded with a beautiful woman; so, what’s the point? Does it actually work? Yes it does work, but the point is to create an attractive advertisement with appealing visuals and a catchy slogan, so even if the audience does not realize the ideology behind the ad, they still feel the need to drink Thee Olives vodka and hope an attractive lady will want them. There are concerns of women being depicted, as an object through these types of advertisements today but there is an understanding that ads may not be targeting women as an object. These ads could be considered appealing to both sexes, therefore this issue is “an accepted criticism that advertising is an important and persuasive cultural institution that represents women in a problematic and unacceptable way” (Kates and Shaw-Garlock. 1999.p.33). So, yes, women are being shown in controversial ways, but it is not intentional and it is accepted.

Ideologies are typically used in the theories of Semiotics, Roland Barthes, and Cultural studies, Stuart Hall. Semiotics is the meaning we receive from signs that analyze “anything that can stand for something else”(Griffin. 2009. p.323). There are symbols we see in our everyday life and Semiotics helps us recognize what these symbols are depicting. Semiotics consists signifiers, which is the description of a symbol, and the signified, which is the actual meaning, as we know it. The Signifier of the Three Olives advertisement is the woman in a martini glass and the Signified is if you drink this martini you can get a pretty woman. The myth, the cultural aspect that seems natural, behind this advertisement is the intention of making drinking this specific brand of vodka and appeal to women seem natural and the norm. Barthes’ theory of linguistic message, which also goes along with his Semiotics theory, deals with an “anchor” and “relay system”, where “the anchorage function acts as an anchor between the possible meanings and the meanings the advertisement wishes you to identify” (Ross. 2000). The relay system deals with the text within an image that is explaining what is interpreted. Cultural Studies is the manufacture of mass media that allows dominant ideologies, the “frameworks through which we interpret, understand, and make sense of social existence” (Griffin. 2009. p.335). In Cultural Studies, Stuart Hall discusses the cultural industries. These industries are the producers of today’s culture, i.e. what is on television, the radio, and fashion. Hall believes we are unaware of the influence the industries have on us.

This ad can go as far as showing men, if they drink Three Olives, they can easily communicate with attractive woman. Through Symbolic Interactionism, the concept of Minding could be used in this example. Minding is the split second people take to have an inner-conversation with themselves, to rehearse what they will say, or how they will react to something, minding is also known as “self talk” (Griffin. 2009. p.62). The advertisement depicts after drinking this vodka, men will be able to think in their mind about what to say to a woman and then successfully gain her attention. This drink could also represent a substance that can help someone “take the role of the other” and allow him or her to imagine themselves as the other person and see how he or she views you. Three Olives could be the push that men need to have the confidence and know how females view him.

A parody of this ad may not be comical, but can help people make a smart choice while having a good time. Drinking and driving is a serious and common issue, and a lot of alcohol companies are trying to address the seriousness of drinking and driving, “mass media campaigns are most likely to reduce drinking and driving if their messages are reinforced by other efforts…reinforcing includes media messages related to drinking and driving” (Preventive Medicine. 2004). A lot of companies today have “drink responsibly” included into their advertisements. Advertising companies realize alcohol is one of the most popular products out there, so they need to find a positive message to put out to their audience, but also make sure there are no negative side affects from their influence. This Three Olives ad represents the consequences of drinking and driving by showing a good time could end in a bad time. The car pile up in a shape of an alcohol bottle helps the audience connect drinking and driving to the subject, without having to read the words. The signifiers are a car pile up shaped as an alcohol bottle with the words drink responsibly and the signified is drinking and driving leads to car accidents. The Minding that would go on after seeing this ad, could be thinking about how much you have had to drink and whether you need to ask for a safe ride or not. Which could lead to asking an attractive lady friend for a ride, which could reference their old ads, but in a responsible way. Women like men who are safe and responsible, therefore it is a win win situation. This parody shows that the cultural industries are starting to care about people using their products as well as keeping their costumers safe.

The influence advertisement has over us is inevitable and it is the industries’ jobs to make sure they are positive. These ads communicate so much more than what we see by just glancing at them. By using communication theories, we can start to understand what the media is trying to portray to us, and we can decide whether their message is directed at us or not. The ideology behind advertisements is to make sure the product appeals to the audience’s values and social existence. By knowing the meanings behind these theories, it is easier to read into what today’s mass media is feeding us and we can maybe one day use our communication knowledge and be a part of the cultural industry.

Using subvertising, or parodies, we can take a serious subject, such as drunk driving, and turn it into an interesting and eye-catching media representation. People need to be lured and enticed or else they will not listen or pay attention. By using current themes and interesting visual aids, advertisers can achieve their audience’s attention. As long as the symbol’s signifier and signified are identifiable, the audience can easily be hooked.


  1. Griffin, E. (2008). Communication: A first look at communication theory (7th ed.) Boston: McGraw-Hill
  2. Kates, Steven M., Shaw-Garlock, Glenda. (1999). The Ever Entangling Web: A Study of Ideologies and Discourses in Advertising to women. 33-49.
  3. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. (2004). Effectiveness of mass media campaigns for reducing drinking and driving and alcohol-involved crashes. Volume 27, Issue 1. 57-65.
  4. Ross, Cassandra. (2000). Seeing Ourselves: An Analysis of Ideology and Fantasy in Popular Advertising. Retrieved from:
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